There was a time when Volkswagen was a harbinger of good vibes, a touchstone of the counter culture and synonymous with idiosyncratic individualism. That was long before the current era of cheating, lying and greed as typified by the scandal that has gross polluters on the road marketed as “Clean Diesels.” Perhaps Volkswagen isn’t alone in this kind of no-holds-barred deception. Automotive journalist, pundit and renaissance man Jamie Kitman has written that “the world’s carmakers have the long-range vision and ethical integrity of a roving band of rabid raccoons.” While we think this broad brush characterization may be unfair to those masked procyonidae, it would certainly seem to apply to today’s VW where ethics were cast aside and the long-range vision seemed to be to continue cheating on the assumption they’d never be caught.
We’re well aware of the marque’s Third Reich origins but in the decades after “the unpleasantness,” the VW Beetle was a cipher for free thinking and social responsibility. Feral Cars Field Scout and Coachella Valley bon vivant Ronald Ahrens encountered such a free thinker recently.
His report: That’s Georgia at the wheel of her ’65 Beetle. She wouldn’t step out and pose with her car. ‘I don’t know what your motives are,’ she said. But she did explain that she fell in love with Beetles after buying one new in 1966 and driving it 43 years. “I had this one standing by.” She says it has given her some problems because everything “went out of adjustment” at once, but she’s found an honest mechanic to put it back in adjustment. I pointed out the bag by her door and learned it contained ice cream she couldn’t finish. Then she asked if I’d throw it away for her, which I’ve done. It was 1.5 quarts of Dreyer’s chocolate.
Inspired by Ronald’s encounter with Georgia and her 50 year-old Bug, we offer a range of images of similar Vdubs found in the wild, all of which make us nostalgic for the time when Volkswagens were thought of in the same terms as family pets rather than as polluting pestilence.
People loved their Volkswagens, they gave them names, decorated them and even raced them. They were fiercely loyal to the car whose basic shape remained the same over a span of 65 years. Innumerable baby boomers learned how to drive behind the wheel and flat windshield of a VW and figured out how to shift for themselves with a real clutch and that rubbery gearbox.
Convertible versions, built for VW by Karmann, were especially cherchez. The horsehair stuffed tops were folded down by hand and the resulting ‘top stack’ protruded over the back of the car creating a fabric spoiler. ..not that the VW ragtops actually need a spoiler in light of the fact they shared the same mechanical components with the standard Bug.
The number of surviving Beetles is quite remarkable since the last new one sold here dates back to early 1979 though they continued to be sold in Mexico and Brazil into the early 21st Century.
We’re kind of loving the roof rack on this early ’70s Bug; the white one below dates from around ’66 or ’67.
We found an old Beetle that, based on the tiny taillights, fabric sunroof and pop-out semaphores in lieu of turn signals, would seem to date from the late 1950s. How can you not love something as innocent as this?
We found this brilliant TV commercial for the ’65 Volkswagen, not unlike Georgia’s, that suggested that Beetles had a resale advantage over their domestic counterparts. This glorious ’65, offered for sale in nearby O’Fallon IL confirms the point made in that commercial 50 years ago. It’s priced at just under $16,000, about ten times what it cost new which, alas, is probably not going to be the case for one of those newly built “Clean Diesels” in 2065.
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Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes. If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.